Coutts has Oracle job for 'as long as he wants'
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
Sir Russell Coutts has a job with Oracle "as long as he wants", but the other knight who saved their America's Cup campaign is likely to leave the holders to try to sink them next time.
Sir Ben Ainslie, brought into Oracle's rearguard when they were on the ropes early against Team New Zealand, has made no secret that he would like to resurrect Britain's presence in yachting's biggest spectacle.
The most successful Olympic sailor of all time, with five medals including four golds, transferred his dinghy skills to the AC72s with ridiculous ease.
His presence as tactician alongside two Australians, skipper Jimmy Spithill and strategist Tom Slingsby, was constantly acknowledged throughout Oracle's stunning comeback from 8-1 down.
At yesterday's post-final press conference Ainslie diplomatically said he was "unsure" if he would return to Oracle.
He won't. He joined them on a learning exercise, keen to race in the AC45s series and then get experience as skipper on their backup boat. He didn't dream that he's get the firsthand experience he did with such a pivotal role in the final.
He has been delighted with how it has worked out and believed the success of the high-speed regatta would enable him to find backers for a British challenge.
"You can go out to the networks now and sell this now. Investor can grasp this thing now," Ainslie said.
Back in Britain interest in this final skyrocketed once Ainslie got on board the Oracle boat. He is a legend at home and that legend just grew.
Pete Cumming, Sky Sports' America's Cup analyst back in the UK, had no doubt that Ainslie could do what he wanted in this America's Cup game now.
"I can't see how Ben could struggle to get a team together. He's the best sailor in the world. He can get the best boat designers, the best sailors," Cumming told The Times newspaper.
"The America's Cup is the peak of our sport and he has shown he can perform on this stage. If Ben Ainslie phoned up all the top sailors in the world and asked them to join him, I'd imagine the percentage who would say no would be zero."
Ainslie is adamant that Britain has the sailors to be competitive.
Oracle appear just as adamant that they will continue their multinational approach.
That is likely to include Coutts staying on as chief executive to help refine a regatta that he and billionaire backer Larry Ellison dreamed up.
It had some major problems, but did eventually produce the spectacle they had envisaged when Team New Zealand pushed their team so hard in the final, which featured some incredibly close racing.
Ellison said Coutts, who has now been involved in five cup wins, could "keep his job as long as he wants".
"Russell Coutts has never lost an America's Cup - not a bad record. So as long as Russell wants his job we're blessed to have him," Ellison said.
He believed Coutts had been instrumental in engineering Oracle's comeback.
"He asked a lot of hard questions and came up with a lot of important answers. He wasn't out on the water, but a lot of his ideas and a lot of strategies and techniques we used to mode that boat and speed it up came from Russell Coutts."
Spithill made it clear he would be sticking around after being at the helm of the greatest comeback in the cup's history if not the history of sport.
"I'm not going anywhere," Spithill declared. "You always see a couple of changes. That's natural in team sports. We're going to hang on to the key guys."
But not even Larry's mountain of money may be enough to keep Ainslie.
- © Fairfax NZ News